Saturday, 10 July 2010
City War Heats Up With SBU Raid
Kiev city Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky (L) and his deputy Oles Dovhy are seen wearing national embroidered shirts.
KIEV, Ukraine -- The office of Kiev’s deputy head was raided by the State Security Service. Deputy head of the Kiev city administration Oles Dohvy appears to be caught up in a criminal case related to fraudulent land deals in the capital. The nation’s State Security Service (SBU) raided his office on July 7, searching for documents
The raid fed rumors of Dovhy’s possible resignation and a power takeover by President Viktor Yanukovych’s team in the city of Kiev. The city council, loyal to the deeply unpopular Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky, might also be facing a major reshaping.
“There is a criminal case open regarding land frauds conducted by officials with access to electronically stored information,” said SBU Spokeswoman Maryna Ostapenko, commenting on the sudden raid.
The case is related to a scandalous session of the city council held on October 1, 2007. The council headed by Chernovetsky gave away four hectares of public green spaces in the city center to an unidentified group of individuals.
The 15 masked members of the SBU special unit, brandishing loaded weapons as they searched for evidence, held Dovhy in his office for hours. They also interrogated him, according to a source at the city council.
“It was a day of panic here. Nobody knew what was going on. Dovhy and his assistants looked confused and very nervous,” said a worker at Dovhy’s office, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
But Dovhy himself put on a brave face and told a different story the next day at the opening session of the city council. “It is in my interest as a public official to have a proper investigation of the alleged land frauds. The authorities had my full cooperation,” he said.
However, other city council members speculated that Dovhy might be in serious trouble and might even face criminal charges of involvement in fraud.
“Obviously, if the case deals with land fraud by the city council, Dovhy, as its deputy chairman, is going to be accused of instigating it,” said Tetyana Melikhova, head of Yulia Tymoshenko’s fraction in the city council.
“The president’s administration has many case files detailing bribery, land fraud, embezzlement and other crimes on the part of the city administration. They will make good use of some of them now,” said Dmytro Andriyevsky, deputy head of oppositional Vitaly Klitchko’s fraction in city council.
The city council is formally led by Kiev Mayor Chernovetsky, but he rarely appears there, allowing 30-year-old Dovhy to run the roost most of the time. Currently, Chernovetsky is vacationing in Switzerland.
The raid on Dovhy’s office comes amid rumors he might step down as a result of an ongoing takeover of power in Kiev by President Viktor Yanukovych’s team. However, a majority of 61 deputies will have to vote him out. If the decision is then vetoed by the mayor, 81 votes are needed to overcome the veto.
With this unlikely, many say the SBU raid was an attempt to convince Dovhy to be more cooperative with presidential appointees, including Deputy Mayor Oleksandr Popov. The recently-appointed Popov is now often referred to as “the true mayor of Kiev.”
There is also evidence that the new deputy mayor is trying to create a new majority in the city council, possibly incorporating Klitchko’s bloc of 14 members. Two deputies from the bloc of Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn had their mandates revoked on July 8. Both had reputations for failing to comply with party orders during votes.
“There was no party assembly and the decision was taken by the leader Volodymyr Lytvyn who is himself fully cooperating with Yanukovych,” said Olena Antonova, one of these deputies. “Me and [the other deputy Yuriy] Kurinniy always voted against the decisions of the Chernovetsky Bloc and were not going to support the new city tzar Popov. So they replaced us with people who would.”
Apart from Klitchko’s and Lytvyn’s blocs, the new Party of Regions coalition in the Kiev city council is expected to include part of Tymoshenko’s and Chernovetsky’s blocs.